As a member of the Central Ohio Fiction Writers, I have attended a fantastic number of presentations by published authors, but none more fun, fascinating, and full of great tips than “Fast Drafting 101” by my delightful March author Jillian David, who lives, in her own words, “near the end of the Earth with her nut of a husband and her bossy cats.” A rural physician in her real-world job, award-winning author Jillian David writes quickly (thus the idea of fast-drafting!), then slowly edits paranormal, suspense, and adventure romances with medical characters and scenarios. She loves to use medical situations to drive drama in her books. Her favorite cell is the platelet and her least-favorite organ is the pancreas. She fully believes that curse words, when appropriately deployed during surgery, are hemostatic. Which also explains why no book of hers will ever bleed out… As you can see, David has a wicked sense of humor as well!
David’s book credits include a paranormal romance series, Hell to Pay, where characters sell their souls to Satan and then have “a devil of a steamy time getting out of the contracts.” Her second series, Hell’s Valley, a paranormal western, involves frigid Wyoming nights, a rising evil force in the valley, and hot psychic ranchers. Her currently work centers on a series of virally enhanced super soldiers, a bit of Chicago mafia suspense, and the tagline “Zodiac Killer meets The Love Boat.
Please help me welcome her to the book nook.
Janet Irvin: Okay, poetry, babies, and the paranormal…where’s the thread that binds these three disparate aspects of your life together?
Jillian David: There’s no thread. It’s a tangled knot!
Seriously, the background of that questions is the fact that I was an English major (concentration in poetry writing) in college, while doing my premed prerequisites. I then went on to medical school, didn’t write for the next 10 years of additional training and early practice, then returned to writing again. The idea for the first book I sold came from two concepts: 1) What if a “deal with the devil” was a real life thing where good people got trapped in contracts for centuries, all to save the life of someone they loved. 2) What if a doctor had the power to sense when someone was going to die — what would they do with that power?
I put those two concepts together and voila — IMMORTAL FLAME!
JEI: What is your process for balancing your work and writing life?
JD: There’s no balance, only large quantities of caffeine, titrated to supraventricular tachycardia rate of approximately 120 beats per minute.
Truth: it doesn’t always balance. I often write on blocks of time off and edit while on call. The process seems to work that way.
JEI: Which aspect of novel writing is the easiest for you? Which one poses the most problems?
JD: It all depends on how badly I write that first draft, I suppose. I’ve given myself crap to work with on revisions and I really suffered as a result. The last book I edited, SILENT COMRADE (book #3 in PROJECT MORPHEUS), I hadn’t touched it for over two years, and when I went back to edit it over the past month, I was pleasantly surprised by how many breadcrumbs I left myself in the first draft! Made things much easier.
JEI: In your bio, you mention your parents and one-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned? For aspiring writers, how do personal relationships affect the writing process?
JD: I believe his name was “Bad Decision,” and the best relationship advice I can pass along to others is this: abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be tangible. If your soul is getting bruised, get out.
My parents are gems. They’re hilarious and … they don’t know I’ve written or published anything. That’s because those two cannot keep a secret to save their lives. I am pretty strict about keeping my Day Job extremely separate from my Writing Job. The reason is threefold: 1) I don’t want Big Brother impacting what I write at all. 2) I write some really dark themes and violent scenes. I’d never want a patient to feel uncomfortable with me caring for them, if they knew what I wrote. 3) I observed a colleague of mine get fired from their healthcare organization for writing erotica. That’s not right. But that’s what happened. Best not to push my luck until I’m closer to retirement!
JEI: What inspired you to choose the genre of paranormal romance?
JD: I’ve always loved sci-fi and fantasy, so those elements get woven into all of my books. In romance, I love paranormal and romantic suspense. It was a natural progression for me. Even in my latest series, PROJECT MORPHEUS, which is a military romantic suspense, I could not avoid putting some sci-fi elements into the series.
JEI: Do you actively scout locations for your stories or are the settings a natural outgrowth of your own home area?
JD: I can’t answer this question without giving myself away. Let’s just say I have working knowledge of most of the settings in which I place my stories.
JEI: Can you share your journey to signing with an agent?
JD: Sure. If there is a Guinness World Record for the most queries sent before getting an agent, I probably have it. I’d like to think that part of the delay came from writing the first two series in sub-genres that don’t exist. Super fun to write. Won a bunch of awards. Yet commercially un-marketable.
When I wrote FALLEN COMRADE back in 2016, it felt different — like I had created something extra special. Like, this-is-the-book special. However, the book was probably still borderline in the romantic suspense genre for the market (very pregnant heroine in a romantic suspense with some sci-fi elements). But I believed in it. I know this was the book that would get me to the next level. So I didn’t stop working on it. I queried, got quite a few requests, and … gosh I got so darn close a number of times. Fast forward four years and numerous full edits later, even pulling in an expert to make sure I had the military aspects of the story right.
There was a newer agent on the scene who had a lot of experience in editing, and I thought, ‘This sounds like a good fit.’ I wasn’t wrong. Jana Hanson asked for a full manuscript, then requested a R&R (revise and resubmit), which I did and then waited. Then I got The Email asking to set up The Call. And the rest is history.
In case you like raw numbers, that would be 385 queries (over 4 different books) from 2013 to 2019, before I got my agent. Look, here’s my advice: if you believe in your stories, never ever give up. Never. Ever.
JEI: You give terrific workshops and are gracious in giving time to aspiring writers. Why do you offer these services?
JD: First of all, I enjoy talking with groups of learners — it’s a lot of fun!
Second of all, it really did take a village to get my books off the ground. There were critiques from other writers, one-on-one teaching of the writing craft, workshops I attended where I got valuable information from other authors, and did I mention … critiques from other writers? Me giving workshops is my way of paying it back and sharing what little I can in the hopes of helping another author, or at least entertaining them.
JEI: For a bit of fun…what’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you as an ob-gyn doctor?
JD: So, I’m an FP/Ob, which is a bit different than Ob/Gyn. I’m a family physician (after residency I did a fellowship in high-risk obstetrics and procedures) who does obstetrics, c-sections, colonoscopy, etc.. My days really are a mixed bag of pregnancy care, babies, adults, colonoscopies, and elder patients.
But if we’re talking obstetrics, my funniest recent experience was with a laboring patient. She had gotten up to go to the bathroom, felt like “OMG something happened,” and then she got on the bed just in time for me to see a head coming out of her at approximately Mach 10 speed. There was this period of about three seconds where time slowed down. I looked at my bare hands. I looked at the rapidly emerging fetal head. Looked back at my hands. Looked at the head. Then I went, Welp I guess we’re going to do this. I bare-handed that delivery.
Heck, when it was all said and done, I was wearing a good chunk of the delivery …
When I tell you how much disinfecting solution I poured on my hands and just how many showers I took afterwards …
JEI: What’s your favorite way to reward yourself when you finish a first draft?
JD: It’s not a reward, per se, it’s a necessity. Work is busy, and when I add the act of creation/writing into the mix, there’s nothing left. So I don’t clean much of anything when I’m drafting. Hubs cooks (bless him). So all I have to do is write and survive for those several days of drafting. When I’m finished, that’s when the whole house gets a good cleaning, top to bottom. It’s pretty satisfying!
For more about Jillian David, visit the following: https://www.jilliandavid.net